Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said on Sunday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller can investigate whatever crime he uncovers as part of the Russia probe. The thing is, Mueller has to check in with him first.
“The special counsel is subject to the rules and regulations of the Department of Justice and we don’t engage in fishing expeditions,” he told Fox News host Chris Wallace. “Bob Mueller understands and I understand the specific scope of the investigation, and so no, it’s not a fishing expedition.”
He said that Mueller needs to ask for permission before expanding the probe beyond its initial scope if investigators discover a crime outside the parameters.
“If it’s something outside that scope, he needs to come to the Acting Attorney General–at this time, me–for permission to expand his investigation,” he told Fox News host Chris Wallace.
Rosenstein did not specify in detail what that scope was.
This comes after former independent counsel Ken Starr appeared on CNN this Friday, concerned the the probe was going outside its mandate.
“We don’t want investigators and prosecutors out on a fishing expedition,” he said.
Mueller and several congressional committees are investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with Kremlin interference efforts in the 2016 election. In a wide-ranging interview, the president told The New York Times in July that it would be improper for Mueller to investigate his family’s finances outside the scope of the Russia probe. He declined to say what’d he’d do if that happened, but lo and behold, a Bloomberg report followed up on that, saying that the probe is also reviewing his finances, and dealings by his son-in-law Jared Kushner.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Friday that Mueller impaneled a grand jury as part of the probe. That’s a big deal since its gives investigators some potent subpoena power. On top of that, this process often produces indictments.
Nonetheless, Rosenstein refused to publicly confirm on Sunday that such a development happened. He simply said grand juries were common in such investigations. Rosenstein advised that generally speaking, the mere existence of a grand jury said nothing about the likelihood of an indictment.
The deputy AG appointed Mueller to special counsel in May after Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
Trump has called the Russia probe a “witch hunt” fueled by Democrats bitter over losing the election.
[Screengrab via Fox News]